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Why are Polaroid sunglasses so important when you’re driving?

Glare happens when light bounces off a flat surface, becomes polarized in the horizontal plane and overpowers vertically oriented light that’s useful to the eye. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable and prevents you from seeing accurately. When you’re driving, sunlight on the road in front of you causes glare. It can happen in bright light, when it’s cloudy and when the sun is low in the horizon. Almost anytime.

Research makes the case

A recent European survey conducted among 1,001 car drivers came to some alarming conclusions. Low-angled sun can create hazardous conditions, resulting in driving fatigue, and potentially, sun-blindness - which can lead to serious accidents. Motorists find driving with low sun difficult, many could take the simple step of wearing polarized sunglasses that can improve visibility and reduce the risk of accidents.

Shorter days – less visibility

In summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, a car’s windscreen visor can block some direct sun - making it easier to see. During winter, daylight hours are shorter and more motorists travel in low sun. The vehicle's sun-visor is less effective at screening the low-angled sun which motorists experience in winter, because the light is too low for the visor to be effective. Everyday situations like vehicles stopping unexpectedly or cars changing lanes can become potentially hazardous when low angled sun impairs motorists' ability to see clearly.

The risk of low-angled light

Out of nine different types of road and weather conditions, 93% of motorists rated low angled sunlight as the most difficult, with 47% stating that low sun is very hazardous. The next most difficult driving condition was slipperiness on a wet road. Half of all drivers admitted to suffering from eye fatigue caused by winter sunlight, while driving. Despite finding low sun a real problem, half (51%) of all motorists surveyed still get behind the steering wheel without wearing sunglasses.

An experiment that proves the point

Drivers’ reaction times and stopping distances have been investigated in an independent test, conducted by RLT Car World.

A 12,000 watt lamp provided a simulation of the sun’s glare. Drivers travelled at a constant 50kms per hour towards the ‘sun’. A hazard – a baby’s pram – was suddenly introduced into the drivers’ path. Each driver was instructed to apply the brake only when they could see the pram. The study compared the results for drivers wearing ordinary sunglasses and polarized sunglasses against the ‘control test’ – no sunglasses at all. Stopping distances and reaction times were measured.

The test reveals that when faced with glare from the sun while driving, ordinary non-polarized sunglasses make it harder to see than no sunglasses at all. Drivers without polarized sunglasses take a longer time to react, resulting in a dangerously long brake-path distance before their vehicle comes to a standstill.

Reaction times for drivers wearing polarized sunglasses are up to 20% quicker compared to driving without any sunglasses and up to 40% quicker than with ordinary sunglasses. Faster reactions mean that stopping distances are shorter - by up to 6 metres - compared to driving with non-polarized sunglasses, and as much as 3 metres shorter than driving without sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses is proven to block out glare, significantly improving driving safety.

The study revealed that by simply wearing polarized sunglasses the driver's vision improved, cutting reaction times dramatically and reducing the risk of accidents.

Driving colours - brown, bronze and copper lenses

These colours absorb blue light the human eye finds the most difficult and uncomfortable. Contrasts are heightened and a high red factor means traffic and brake lights are easier to see. View our driving glasses